Our Students.

May 13, 2008

The Best and Brightest

Christina Bryant, freshman
Elba, Alabama
Recipient of Coca-Cola Scholarship and J. Craig and Paige T. Smith Foundation Scholarship

Raised by her truck-driver father, Christina Bryant watched him labor to make ends meet. While grateful for all his efforts, watching him struggle motivated her to go to college.

“I didn’t want my children to have to watch me work that hard to give them what they needed,” she said. She knew that the key to a good college was a scholarship, and the key to a scholarship was a good high school record. Besides earning a nearly 4.0 grade point average, Christina volunteered in her community and through Key Club, and joined academic clubs and honoraries.

Neither of her parents graduated from high school, though Christina’s father did earn his GED. While he couldn’t give her firsthand advice about college, he encouraged and supported her. So did many other people in Elba, including JoAnn Cannon, her Girl Scout leader, and Faron Cox of the local newspaper. Being the first in her family to attend college qualified her for the Coca-Cola First in Family Scholarship, a $5,000, four-year scholarship.

“The day I got the phone call that I had received the Coca-Cola Scholarship was the best day of my life,” the pre-med major said. But UA would still have been out of reach without the J. Craig and Paige T. Smith Foundation Scholarship, which provides $15,000 a year for four years.

Both scholarships are merit-based, intended for first-generation college students. The scholarship also provides mentors. For Christina, whose high school graduating class numbered 65, that kind of connection was vital when she came to a school the size of UA.

Her scholarships are making her college dreams a reality, but Christina thinks of the friends who didn’t get her opportunities. Only six of her classmates went on to four-year colleges. The others, because of lack of funds, had to start at community colleges, or miss college altogether.

“My friends felt their accomplishments in high school — all their hard work — didn’t amount to anything because maybe one bad SAT score kept them from getting a scholarship, when they were so much more than just that one number.”

The Coca-Cola and Smith scholarships, which also considered a student’s personal circumstances, and service to family and community, as well as academic achievement, made the difference for Christina. She is grateful for the support, but hopes more such scholarships will be endowed to help other students like her.

Alex Flachsbart, junior
Concord, California
Recipient of National Merit Scholarship

Alex Flachsbart has taken to heart the motto of his high school: enter to learn, leave to serve. He entered into his academic career at The University of Alabama in the same spirit.

A double major in political science and economics with a career interest in public service, Alex obviously enjoys his studies and his life at UA. His enthusiasm for his life here and his passion for politics shows through his activities: past president of the Freshman Forum, vice president of Campus Democrats, a Blackburn Fellow, an Avanti member, and membership in several student organizations. Alex has also served as an intern to U.S. Congressman Artur Davis and studied abroad in the Alabama at Oxford program.

When he talks about his current projects, however, Alex goes from enthusiastic to fervent. With other students, Alex is working to bring a public policy center to campus, allowing students to work on policy issues affecting the state. He is also part of the Bama Bike Initiative pilot program, designed to ease campus congestion.

As a National Merit Scholar with 4.0+ grade point average, Alex had his choice of many schools and many scholarship offers. How did the Capstone attract a student of Alex’s caliber? In part, he says, it was the academic program, but also the sense of family he felt when visiting campus. “At other schools I was an enrollment statistic,” he says. “Here I was a person from the minute I walked in the door.” (Alex certainly had plenty of schools for comparison. He visited 14 universities before choosing Alabama.)

While he looked at many facets of the colleges he was considering, Alex knew a scholarship package would be important. His parents, while supportive, could not pay all his expenses for four years at a good college.

“It’s so enticing and rewarding as a high-school senior to see a school is willing to invest in you and you want to respond by working hard,” he explains. Speaking of many of his friends on campus, he says, “They wouldn’t have been here if it weren’t for the scholarship package. It opens the door for people to step through to see what this university is about.”

Through the “Our Students. Our Future.” capital campaign, UA hopes to open its doors to many other such outstanding students.

Christina Bryant
Christina Bryant

Alex Flachsbart
Alex Flachsbart